Georgy Maximilianovich Malenkov
Georgy Maximilianovich Malenkov
When enumerating the leaders of the Soviet State, the name of Georgy Malenkov (1901–1988) always remains in the shadow of such historical figures as Joseph Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev. Most often Malenkov is not considered the leader of the USSR at all, despite the fact that after the death of the "Leader of the Peoples", it was Malenkov, and not Khrushchev, who initially got the main political power.
Childhood and Youth
Georgy Malenkov was born on November 23 (December 6), 1901 in Orenburg in the family of a railway employee. On the father's side, he belonged to the nobility, but his mother came from the commoners. Little is known about Malenkov's childhood and youth — mainly from official reports and a biography written by his son Andrei Malenkov. This biography, among other things, reports that his grandfather was a colonel, and his grand-uncle served in the navy as the rear admiral. Apparently, these details should be attributed to the category of family legends, because none of the lists of the senior military officers of the XIX century mentions the Malenkov surname.
It is known for a fact that the future Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR studied at the 1st Orenburg Gymnasium from August 1911 to June 1919. According to his certificate, Georgy had "excellent" grades for all his subjects, except for the German language, for which he had "good". He graduated right in the midst of a battle for the city between the Whites and the Reds. Soon the former gymnasium student Malenkov voluntarily joined the Red Army and was enlisted to the 3rd Turkestan Cavalry Division of the 1st Army. In April 1920, Georgy joined the Bolshevik Party, after which he served at the agit-train and, thanks to his education, quickly advanced to the position of instructor in the political section of the Turkestan Front. In September 1921, Georgy demobilized and moved to Moscow, where he entered the Moscow Higher Technical School (MVTU).
Until the end of 1925, Malenkov was a student of the Department of Electrical Engineering, but his priority gradually shifted to party and political work. In January 1926, the dutiful and educated young man was noticed by members of the Central Committee of the CPSU, and he was appointed a technical secretary of the Politburo. A natural apparatchik, Malenkov always kept all papers in perfect order and carried out all instructions with unfailing accuracy, which swiftly made him an indispensable doer. He quickly moved up the career ladder, by the age of 30 becoming the head of the organizational department of the Moscow City Committee of the All-Union Communist Party. Two years later Malenkov advanced to the position of the head of the department of leading party organs of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks (AUCPB).
In 1935–1936, under the supervision of Malenkov, a grandiose card catalogue was created, containing data on 2.5 million members of the Communist party, as well as non-party specialists and executive officials. It is the skilful work with personnel that will eventually become Malenkov's signature trait.
By 1937, Malenkov became one of Stalin's most valued party cadres and a member of the “inner circle” of those officials admitted to the most important meetings and being the Leader's companions during feasts and leisure time. As the chief staff specialist, he actively participated in the campaign of political repressions of 1937–1938 and played an important role in the downfall and arrest of the once all-powerful former People's Commissar of Internal Affairs Nikolai Yezhov on April 10, 1939.
Before the war, Malenkov's influence continued to grow. Since March 1939 he became a member of the Orgburo of the Central Committee of the AUCPB, from July 1940 — a member of the Chief Military Council, and from February 1941 — a candidate member of the Politburo. At the same time, Malenkov oversaw issues of the country's defence capabilities, being responsible for the production of rocket artillery systems and combat aircraft.
Malenkov's Work during the Great Patriotic War
From the first days of the war, Georgy Malenkov, along with Josef Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov, Kliment Voroshilov and Lavrentiy Beria became a member of the State Defence Committee (GKO), established on June 30, 1941, which was the highest emergency governing body of the country. As a GKO member, he visited the most dangerous sectors of the front at the head of special groups known as "Malenkov's commissions". In August 1941, Malenkov visited Leningrad, in October he inspected the positions on the approaches to Moscow, and in March 1942 — the Volkhov Front, in August of the same year he was solving urgent issues near Stalingrad, and in the spring of 1943, on the eve of the Battle of Kursk, he visited the Central Front.
Since the summer of 1943, Malenkov increasingly focused on the problems of the military-industrial complex and supervised the production of aircraft and aviation equipment, in which he made meaningful progress. In the autumn of 1943, he was appointed head of the committee for the economic rehabilitation of the liberated areas of the USSR, and after the abolition of this body, from February to September 1945, he headed the committee for the elimination of German industry. Thanks to his colossal perseverance and effective organization of all processes, Malenkov was able to successfully combine his work in all these posts with the duties in the Central Committee apparatus. In recognition of his merits, in September 1943, Georgy Malenkov was awarded the title of Hero of Socialist Labour, and in February 1946, he was introduced into the Politburo of the Central Committee of the AUCPB.
In May 1946, Malenkov's outstanding party career was put to a serious test. Due to the development of the "aviation case", which brought many industry leaders and the Air Force command under investigation, he lost his high state and party posts. At the same time, new stars rose in the Kremlin sky — the ideologist Aleksey Kuznetsov and economic executive Nikolay Voznesensky, who advanced from the Leningrad party organization. The struggle between two political groups for influence on Stalin resulted in the “Leningrad Affair” of 1949, when Malenkov, who fell into disgrace, first returned to power with the help of Lavrentiy Beria, and then, with his support, initiated the elimination of his competitors.
After the sudden death of heart failure of Andrei Zhdanov, who was the patron of the Leningrad group, and the subsequent execution of Kuznetsov, Voznesensky and their associates, Malenkov formally became the second most powerful person in the state. In December 1949, his article in honour of the 70th anniversary of Stalin was published on the front page of Pravda, and in October 1952, Malenkov was tasked to deliver a summary report at the 19th Party Congress, as well as the general leadership of the plenum. By March 1953, the "big four" was formed, comprised of members of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the AUCPB, namely Georgy Malenkov, Lavrentiy Beria, Nikita Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin. After the death of Stalin, the struggle for power unfolded between them.
Many Western diplomats considered Malenkov the main contender for the role of the new leader of the USSR. He was described as a shrewd, prudent and intelligent functionary, an ideal bureaucrat. But the complex intricacies of domestic politics and the struggle between political groups and departments ultimately were not in his favour. In June 1953, Malenkov and Khrushchev, with the help of Marshal Georgy Zhukov, eliminated Beria and divided the power among themselves. The Council of Ministers was given to Malenkov, and Khrushchev became the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU. After that, Khrushchev started to cunningly redistribute the functions of departments and put his supporters into key positions, primarily in the military and state security.
In 1954, Khrushchev's energy and determination did their job. He gained a decisive voice in both domestic and foreign policy. On January 25, 1955, by the decision of the Central Committee, Malenkov was dismissed from the post of head of government but remained a member of the Presidium of the Central Committee. The final clash between Khrushchev and Malenkov, which turned out to be unfortunate for the latter, took place on June 18, 1957, at the meeting of the Presidium, when the “old guard” under the leadership of Vyacheslav Molotov, Lazar Kaganovich and Georgy Malenkov, eventually called the “anti-Party group”, tried to remove Khrushchev from the post of First Secretary of the Central Committee. They failed largely because Khrushchev was supported by Defence Minister Zhukov.
After that, Malenkov's state and party career came to an end. He was removed from all important posts and sent to Ust-Kamenogorsk to serve as the director of the hydroelectric power station, and a little later — to Ekibastuz to a similar position, which was actually an exile. In 1968, Georgy Malenkov retired and returned to Moscow, where he cut all contacts except for his wife, children and grandchildren, spending most of his time at the dacha in the suburban village of Udelnaya.
It is indicative that immediately after the death of Stalin, Malenkov, Khrushchev and Beria set about rearranging the existing system. Despite the different directions of activity, the heirs of the Leader agreed on one thing — the urgent need to liberalize management and reform the economy. As early as on March 9, 1953, Malenkov announced the possibility of a peaceful coexistence of two systems, socialist and capitalist, and the next day — the inadmissibility of the cult of personality. He led an offensive against the privileges of the nomenklatura (higher Communist Party members), prohibiting the practice of issuing money in envelopes, which pushed party officials to switch to the side of Khrushchev. Malenkov tried to weaken the party apparatus, giving more power to the ministries and head offices.
At the same time, the new chairman of the Council of Ministers focused his efforts on improving the actual welfare of the population, reducing the agricultural tax by 2.5 times with a simultaneous increase in food purchase prices and a decrease in consumer prices, which certainly led to a welfare gain in the countryside. But not all innovations turned out to be successful. Thus, the decline in prices for industrial products in April 1954 resulted in a shortage of goods and an overall imbalance in commodity turnover — and the huge lines in stores did not contribute to the popularity of the government. In addition, this was accompanied by the practice of trading in bundles, when scarce goods could only be bought together with the low-demand products that were attached to them.
It is noteworthy that, advocating for the priority of light industry over the heavy, for the introduction of housing and construction programs and the harmonious development of the economy, Georgy Malenkov largely repeated the ideas of Nikolai Voznesensky, in the persecution and death of whom he was directly involved. In foreign policy, Malenkov adhered to the course of détente. In 1953, the USSR withdrew most of its military advisers and specialists from North Korea, after which an armistice agreement was signed. Also, the USSR restored diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia and Greece and abandoned its territorial claims to Turkey.
Family and Private Life
Malenkov met his future wife Valeria Alekseevna Golubtsova (1901-1987), whom he lovingly called Lera all his life, in 1920, when he was serving on an agit-train on the Turkestan Front. This marriage radically changed Malenkov's life. Valeria was an intelligent and strong-willed woman, who became a tower of strength for her husband, contributed to his career growth and supported him in difficult moments.
Many believed that Georgy Malenkov owed his career primarily to his wife — it was she who convinced him to go to the university and arranged for his admission to the Central Committee apparatus. The major part of Valeria Golubtsova's working life was associated with the Moscow Power Engineering Institute. She graduated from MPEI in 1934 and worked as its rector from 1943 to 1952, having done a lot for her alma mater.
Malenkov’s family had three children. Their daughter Valentina (1924–2010), or Volya, as they called her, became an architect, and sons Andrei (1937) and Georgy (1938) devoted themselves to science. The elder son, who became a doctor of biological sciences, was engaged in biophysics, and the younger, a doctor of chemical sciences, became a specialist in the mathematical modelling of physicochemical processes.
Death and Funeral
Georgy Malenkov lived a long life. After his retirement, he raised his grandchildren and wrote unanswered requests for reinstatement in the Party, from which he was expelled in 1961 — first to Leonid Brezhnev, then to Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko and Mikhail Gorbachev.
After the death of his wife, who was the closest person to him, the old man lived for less than four months and died on January 14, 1988, in Moscow, at the age of 86. Malenkov was buried at the Moscow Kuntsevo cemetery next to his wife, under the modest stone crosses. His passing went completely unnoticed by the society preoccupied with Perestroika, and four years after the death of Georgy Malenkov, the Soviet Union itself collapsed.
Georgy Malenkov's Accomplishments
Malenkov combined the best qualities of a Soviet official — a workaholic, an expert in paperwork and an officer ready to accurately and swiftly fulfil any order of his superiors. A well-deserved reputation as an impeccable performer quickly distinguished him from the general ranks of party workers and allowed Malenkov to make an excellent career under Joseph Stalin, but it did not leave him a chance in the fight against Nikita Khrushchev with his crude charisma. Georgy Malenkov's short term as the chairman of the Council of Ministers is evaluated positively by many modern historians — from 1953 to 1955 he initiated many reforms, which made it possible to significantly raise the living standards of ordinary Soviet people.